Creating gardens in a climate emergency
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
I've been touched by the Greta effect. I used to think that simply doing any gardening was a benign, positive action for the environment. But I've been forced to think more closely about how I garden.
It's widely accepted that we are now facing a climate emergency. I am committed to playing my part in reducing and mitigating climate change in the way I create gardens. We seem to be experiencing more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns and our gardens need to adapt to survive.
That includes reducing the use of pesticides, plastic, synthetic fertilisers and peat-based products, encouraging customers to compost their food and garden waste, reduce their use of mains water by fitting a rainwater butt, using resilient plants, organic mulches and using ethically and responsibly sourced materials.
The horticulture industry has been painfully slow in eliminating peat-based composts but there are now good quality alternatives available in the big DIY superstores. Where you see shops selling only peat-based composts, ask them to switch to peat-free.
I'm experimenting with replacing fertilisers derived from the livestock industries such as bonemeal and fish, blood and bone with plant based fertilisers such as seeweed extracts.
I'm trying to reduce my gardening carbon footprint and use local companies wherever possible for delivery of materials to minimise transportation.
With the amount of plants I buy for clients I accumulate lots of plastic pots. Although you can put non-back plastic pots in domestic recycling bins, it's much better to re-use them. I wash them to ensure they are sterilised and use them for propagating new plants and potting on smaller plants. I give away lots of plastic pots to local schools and community gardening groups. Better still, try to avoid buying plants with plastic pots altogether. There are some nurseries selling plants in alternative biodegradable materials. Depending on the time of year some plants are available bare root.
I encourage customers to include more planting and less hard surfaces in gardens I design and to devote some space for food growing. There are some great techniques for training plants producing edibles to grow against fences and walls in small gardens.
I try to incorporate a wide diversity of plants to support wildlife throughout the year, including trees, evergreen shrubs and herbaceous perennials. I try to avoid using highly cultivated plant cultivars that are sterile as these don't provide any pollen for pollinating insects. One example is any plant with double flowers.
If you're wondering what to do with your front garden, why not add a tree and planting rather than just pave it over? Paved front gardens are contributing to flooding as rain water can't be absorbed back into the soil. A front garden with well-designed planting will give you much more pleasure and even increase the value of your home.